Human-Interest Friday – L&D, Amtrak, and the Chip Local – 30 December 2005

by admin on 2015/12/30

Hey, everyone, here is something different; these pictures were taken on Friday 30 December 2005.  Two days before, I had a momentous day on the Lockport Branch, chasing the Louisiana & Delta Railroad train that served that former Southern Pacific Railway branchline for the entirety of its run in both directions on the branchline.  With today being my last weekday off of work for a long time, I was very much hoping that another run on the branchline would be made today, per the train’s usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule of serving the line.  Such would, as you shall soon see, not be the case, but I still would, as you shall soon see, be able to get some good shots of the L&D train working in Raceland.

Apparently, judging by the 08:20 timestamp on the first image, the L&D Schriever Job did not go east of Raceland before stopping to do this work in Raceland.

Yes, that is some bad track!

You will recall from the big essay from two days ago that a centerbeam flatcar loaded with lumber was set out on this track; now that that car is unloaded, it’s time to retrieve the car, the process that you are seeing in these first few images.

A decade later (which is when I am typing and publishing this), this scene looks much different.  Dufrene Lumber no longer receives cars here but, rather, receives them in Schriever (a change that was made about 2010.)  From that time until early 2014, this track sat empty, and I feared that it would be removed, but in late December 2013, I noticed a bundle of crossties placed here, apparently in preparation for refurbishing the track.  That happened, a fence was put around part of the track seen in these images, land to the south developed, and in April 2004, hopper cars – usually OCCX – loaded with potash began to arrive and be spotted for unloading here.

The background in the distance has also changed, as a crude-oil-by-rail terminal – something of which I didn’t imagine at the time that I took these pictures – is almost finished being built 10 years to the day later.  I’m glad that I got these images when I did!

Do you see OMW riding the front of the locomotive?

Now, it’s time for him to get down so that he can couple to the empty lumber car.

OMW has been such a fixture in the Lafourche-Terrebonne-Assumption railroad scene for the last three decades.

It was at about this time and place that I learned the unfortunate news that a trip down the branch to Lockport to Valentine Paper would not be made today, which I had feared. There were three loaded boxcars to be brought there (two of them CN), but Valentine Paper had only unloaded two or three of the five cars that were brought to it Wednesday, and Valentine Paper told the L&D to just wait until Monday – when I would return to my day job from the holiday break – to serve it.  Dammit!  I was also told that many more boxcars would be coming, but I wouldn’t get to see any of this.

So, we’re just left with these views of the empty centerbeam flatcar being slowly pulled away.

Next, in what is probably tied (with a yet-to-be-seen image later in this article) for my favorite shot of the day, we’re across the Lockport Branch at the switch to the Raceland Proper track where we get this broadside view.

Do you see OMW still riding the car?  After lining the switch back for the branch mainline, he gets back into the cab, where he is for this similar broadside view on the other side of the sugar mill (which apparently was not served today.)

The Schriever Job spent an hour or more switching MTI, only to emerge with only one M.P. hopper car, seen here in the setout that the Chip Local would have picked up later in the day.

That’s all for Raceland today for the train; so, it’s all for Raceland today for me!  Next, we go to Schriever, where an eastbound BNSF manifest train is in the siding while we wait on Amtrak’s westbound Sunset Limited.  Here is a CN boxcar that is part of that eastbound BNSF train.

The woman taking the video recording had brought the other two persons – a mother and her son – here to Schriever for them to get on the train for a trip to Houston.

Here is our train, and I believe the people in the blue automobile were waiting for a passenger on the inbound train.

The boy appears to be excited!

The train is still slowing to a stop here.

Now it’s time to board!

Well, actually, before they can board, our one alighting passenger needs to step off of the train.

Okay, kid, now you can climb aboard!

We’re at milepost 55 of the Sunset Route.

I don’t remember, but I think that the woman at right is the mother of the woman getting on the train.


Now, before the eastbound train could depart the siding, along comes, 10 minutes after our previous picture, the Chip Local!

Probably since he was probably running on yellow signals with the westbound Sunset Limited still so close ahead of him, he probably was going slow enough that I could easily get ahead of him for successive shots in short spans like this.

What really caught my eye was that it had HLCX 3802 for power! I had been seeing this locomotive in Avondale Yard for months, and I had long hoped that it would get a few runs on the LLS51. It finally did, but on a cloudy day; dammit!  Aren’t clouds automatically bad for railroad photography?

Our next shot at Chacahoula – and, more specifically, the results when I processed it back then – were a big step in getting me to question that long-held assumption.

Whoah.  Wait a moment, here.  I actually like this cloudy day shot, to the point that I think that the cloudiness makes the image better than it would be if there were sunny blue skies with no clouds.  I had yet to learn the formula for getting good train pictures under cloudy skies, and if I could say that I learned it at some particular point in time and if I could say that that point was the third of three days of lessons that built up to that final lesson, then this image on this day is right in the middle of that process, the second of three critical days that led me to embrace cloudy-sky train photograph; the first of those days was two months to the day before this date, when I got some great images under cloudy skies on Rich Mountain, despite me being disappointed in the cloudy weather of that day, and the third-and-final date, the day on which the lesson would truly start to sink in, would come in another two months near the same mountains.

So, good ol’ Chacahoula, Louisiana, has something in common with Rich Mountain, Arkansas, that helped me figure out the merits of – or when one can succeed at – cloudy day railroad-photography; can you figure out what it is?

Anyway, here is a heavily cropped version of the above image, showing the smiling Conductor Chip!

As usual, he has his feet propped up on the window!  That my be my first digital image that clearly shows Chip’s face, even though that was not my goal in taking the picture, but, coincidentally, there is another metaphor here that explains my development as a railroad photographer.  Note, please, that I am photographing the Chip Local today only because the Lockport Branch was not served today; note, too, that I photographed action on the Lockport Branch thrice in the last week, and in none of those photo essays did you see any images of the Chip Local; note, furthermore, that I photographed the Lockport Branch because my beloved Napoleonville Branch, the railroad of my earliest days, was gone then and had been for a decade; note, additionally, that I have more recently – starting in the latter part of 2011 – become known for photographing the Chip Local and Chip himself, a fact that is connected to the other facts mentioned in this long sentence.

Inasmuch as it was even possible, the Chip Local would, for me, basically come to play the role that the branchline trains had played for me, even, in most cases, more than the L&D trains around Raceland did, since they were now almost entirely lease hopper cars and tank cars; the Chip Local usually looked cooler than the post-Valentine-Paper L&D trains of Raceland looked, since the Chip Local looked more like Valentine trains than did the post-Valentine-Paper Raceland L&D trains!  Post-Valentine-Paper, the Chip Local was the closest thing that I had to the branchline trains of my youth, but-and I was also coming to appreciate a train of which I had known since the late 1990s when I started driving an automobile; only starting in the latter half of 2011 did I start making any effort to photograph Chip himself!

So, there is a deeper meaning to today’s story of me chasing the Chip Local instead of chasing a train down the Lockport Branch as I would have preferred to do; in just a few short years, I wouldn’t have a choice anymore, and the Chip Local would be the most interesting game in town, the neatest remaining local train in this area.

One year to the day later, though, I’d be out of the country photographing something very different – while still very familiar – when I visited Kansas City Southern de México’s main yard in Monterrey!

Taken about a second after the previous picture, this next image – presented in color, unlike the prior image – also shows the power of cloudy-day photography under certain conditions.

See, with the conversion of the prior image to greyscale, I was following a long-standing practice (not unique to me) of converting to greyscale for images that were not made in good lighting conditions, and, up until today, that would mean cloudy images such as these Chacahoula images; it was today that I truly realized – or truly began to realize – that I actually could get pleasing, presentable, powerful images under cloudy skies, but I’d learn why two months later.

I actually chased this train to Morgan City, but I present not images of them here, because they are bad; in those cases, cloudy skies actually did make them bad.

As I saw it here, this train was pulling four empty flatcars, apparently from Metals USA in Waggaman.

Next, we are back in Schriever, and Old Man Tabor and I are watching the eastbound Sunset Limited arrive.

A few passengers would alight here.

Yeah, the lighting isn’t working that great here.

We’re ending the day with some love.

So, life happens in Schriever on the second-to-last day of 2005.

Can you feel the love?

Passengers alighted, the train departs.

And that was it for the day; I then returned to New Orleans for a party at the lady friend’s place.  On the way back east, I saw the LLS51 arrive in Avondale at 19:00.  It was pulling 13 cars, including the four empty flat cars with which I saw it arrive westbound in Schriever earlier and that you saw in the pictures; I don’t recall if that 13 included the two cars that the L&D left for it in Raceland this morning, as seen in image 004089.

Stay tuned for a brief article tomorrow to finish off 2005.


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